Immigrant Workers Took Action Following Report of Abuse of the E-Verify System
Hundreds of Waste Management workers belonging to the ILWU struck three facilities Friday morning, March 15, shutting down the company’s East Bay operation for five hours. The action was made possible by the support from hundreds of Teamster members who honored picket lines and refused to drive the company’s trucks that collect refuse and recycling early each morning from residential and industrial customers. Additional support came from members of the Machinists Union who honored picket lines by refusing to report for their maintenance and repair jobs during the strike.
ILWU members organized their picket lines beginning at 3am outside the company’s headquarters in Oakland, a recycling facility in San Leandro and the massive regional landfill in Livermore/Altamont. According to the ILWU, the job action was sparked by “the company’s blatant law-breaking against employees, including retaliation that targeted immigrant workers.”
In the days leading up to the strike, workers filed formal charges against Waste Management with the National Labor Relations Board including mistreating immigrant workers.
Those charges revealed one particularly nasty episode involving Waste Management’s use of the federal “E-Verify” system to retaliate against immigrant recycling workers who were organizing for the rights on the job. Workers and community supporters have made several appearances at the Oakland City Council to protest Waste Management’s behavior toward workers.
In addition to support from other unions, community groups joined the picket lines, including the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE). In early February, 200 workers convened a historic “Recycling Workers Convention” that was held with community support and employees from four major recycling operators in the East Bay. Most of the meeting was conducted in Spanish, and was chaired by workers who are taking a leadership role in the campaign to improve industry conditions in Alameda County. Supporters at the Convention included a host of elected officials, church leaders, environmental activists, industry experts and community organizations. Workers ratified a plan to improve industry conditions and supporters signed a pledge to provide better jobs and improve recycling services.
The strike generated heavy media coverage that was sympathetic to worker concerns. Five television stations carried extensive reports, including live coverage from the picket line. Some of the interviews were conducted by workers themselves.
Talks with the company are expected to resume in the coming days and weeks on a variety of issues.